Tulane senior running back Robert Kelley is facing criminal charges of simple robbery and simple battery after allegedly beating a fellow Tulane student and stealing his bicycle, WWL-TV reported Monday night.
A July 30 incident outside The Boot led to Kelley’s Aug. 4 booking. He was freed after posting a $10,000 bond, according to court records.
“Robert Kelley, a senior from New Orleans, has been suspended from the Tulane University football team,” the school stated in a release. “Federal law prohibits the university from disclosing any disciplinary action taken against a student regarding his or her enrollment in the university.”
Kelley, 21, was not listed in Tulane’s online directory when the fall semester began Monday.
In a statement emailed to The Advocate on Monday night, Kelley’s attorney, Scott R. Bickford, said there’s no “credible evidence” that supports his client being involved in the incident.
“The allegations that Robert Kelley intended to rob or harm the alleged victim are not supported by credible evidence,” the statement read. “The alleged victim knows Mr. Kelley and has spent time with Mr. Kelley as well as multiple members of the Tulane football team. There was never any intent by Mr. Kelley to either harm the alleged victim or deprive him of his property. We do believe that the alleged victim was harmed and struck by other persons later that evening. And we believe that other incident is supported by credible evidence. However, Mr. Kelley was not present or in any way involved in that other incident.”
Kelley, a former O. Perry Walker High School, standout missed the past two spring practices due to academic infractions but was widely expected by coaches to return when practice resumed in August. When he didn’t, coach Curtis Johnson said he expected to hear final word about Kelley’s potential eligibility Monday.
Kelley is facing potential felony charges after he confessed to police, according to an NOPD arrest warrant application. The news came down just four days before the Green Wave open its season — at 7 p.m. Thursday at Tulsa.
After he served as a backup to star running back Orleans Darkwa for most of his Tulane career, 2014 was expected to be Kelley’s moment in the spotlight. He started two games as a junior, averaging 4.2 yards per carry on a career-high 98 attempts and scoring three touchdowns. His 253 career carries and 80 career catches were more than all of Tulane’s other running backs combined.
Kelley’s absence leaves a void of experience at the position, which Johnson said he’s going to fill situationally with a combination of redshirt freshman Sherman Badie, true freshman Dontrell Hilliard, sophomore Lazedrick Thompson, junior Josh Rounds and senior Dante Butler.
“We are going to have to sort it out as it goes along because they all do things a little differently,” Johnson said in the first week of preseason camp. “We knew what (Kelley) could do, and he was the kind of guy you could give the ball to a lot. We need to keep learning more about a lot of these guys.”
Kelley is slated to appear in court for a status report Sept. 9.
According to the warrant application, the victim and a friend “were approached by a group of Tulane football players,” including Kelley. The victim reported that after some rough-housing, somebody took his bike and placed it in a portable toilet “to mess with him.”
After retrieving his bike and leaving the area, the victim reported that Kelley followed him.
“Mr. Kelley became angry and punched (the victim) in his right abdomen area,” Detective Sgt. Scott Meunier wrote. “(The victim) advised that he fell to the ground in pain, and Mr. Kelley jumped on top of him and began to beat him.”
The victim reported suffering from scrapes, abrasions and ripped clothing. That same night, the victim retrieved his bicycle near the college dormitories, only to have Kelley pounce on him and take the bike for good.
Meunier said Kelley later confessed.